Editorial: New Freeman Park Rules Will Have Negative Impact

By / Editorials / Wednesday, 11 February 2015 05:00

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

The Carolina Beach Town Council adopted new restrictions on camping at their February 10th, meeting. They counted 875 campsites on a busy holiday weekend and decided to limit campsites to 119 from April 1st to September 30th, available only by advanced reservations placed online for $10 per day with a $2 transaction fee. Traditionally people camped along the shoreline, but the new designated campsites are located around 50 yards away from the water next to the sand dunes.
The Town of Carolina Beach has built a million dollar a year business out of Freeman Park over the years and a couple of years ago they even dedicated at least $350,000 a year from those revenues to go towards beach nourishment and inlet maintenance projects. Keeping the before mentioned facts in mind, here's a couple of likely scenarios that are pretty common sense predictions.
- Revenues will likely decline the first year the restrictions are in place and possibly by as much as 40% the second year. Remember, council just recently raised vehicle access fees at the park, so there may be some lost revenues as a result of customer dissatisfaction. Revenues will fall greater in the second year after many people are turned off by the new rules the first year and may not return. Word of mouth could nail the revenue coffin shut the third year.
- Making people camp 50 or more yards away from the shoreline means families will have to cross that distance with four wheel drive vehicles traveling back and fourth all day. They'll have to leave their valuables locked in their vehicle and use a pair of binoculars to gaze across the lanes of traffic to make sure no one is messing around with their stuff, or, that little Johnny made it safely back to the tent. People will be forced to inconveniently plan their 50+ yard hikes contemplating kids, valuables, etc.
- Handicap people who use to be able to camp next to the shoreline for easy access will now have to figure out how to cross those lanes of vehicles - the great divide - to reach the waters edge.
- The biggest turn-off will be availability and the unpredictable nature of actually being able to camp at the park. Local residents (taxpaying voters with a voice at the ballot box) will get pretty upset this summer when they decide to load up the jeep and head to the beach for a spontaneous camping trip. That will absolutely be out of the question because 119 campsites will be reserved nearly all of the time.
Rather than gradually implementing restrictions on the number of campsites over a period of time, the Council is practically locking the door. When revenues drop, no one (less Mayor Wilcox who voted no) should start complaining. And when they can't afford to put away as much money for beach nourishment and inlet maintenance, they'll just get crafty and either lift the camping restrictions, raid room tax revenues used for tourism promotion, or pass along a nice property tax increase.
A more simple solution would have been to monitor the park, determine the peak times when littering and other issues were most problematic and then implement restrictions only at those times such as busy holiday weekends. Evidently that's what brought on this change.
It wasn't the people visiting the throughout the summer months, it was the 1,000's of people that trashed it on holiday weekends.
Throwing out the baby with the bath water.

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